Sponsored Pros Leave Major Poker Site Ambassador Roles
The poker industry ain’t what it used to be, especially with respect to poker pro sponsorships. There was a time that poker sites had so many sponsored pros that one needed a spreadsheet to track them. Sites like PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker had pros in various categories and tiers.
A decade later, the poker world is a different place. Of course, there are many reasons for this, but it is really a stark contrast.
Two major sites have been adding pros in recent months – GGPoker and Americas Cardroom – while others are watching their team members take off their jerseys (patches) and take an alternate road. Players have departed PokerStars, PartyPoker, and 888poker within the past two months. And 2021 has only just begun.
Moneymaker Started and Ended It
On December 31, 2020, Chris Moneymaker ended a long and iconic 17-year sponsorship deal with PokerStars. In many ways, he led the era of online poker sponsorships in 2003 that led to a flurry of player-operator agreements in the years that followed.
At the time he ended it, many sites had already dispatched their pros. PokerStars parted ways with many of its big names in the past several years. PartyPoker lost and gained pros. 888poker held on to most of its ambassadors with one WSOP Main Event champion exception.
GGPoker and its sister site Natural8 was the largest global poker site adding pros in 2020. Americas Cardroom was elevating its team toward the end of the year, and it capped off its new additions with the early-2021 signing of Moneymaker himself.
Another PokerStars Departure
After Celina Lin ended her PokerStars deal at the beginning of January, only 10 pros remained on the PS roster. Another was preparing her departure, though, and Muskan Sethi announced it in late January. She had been the last pro representing PokerStars India, but she parted ways with the company after three years.
After 3️⃣ years as a PokerStars India Ambassador, today we say farewell to Muskan Sethi (@muskaansethi).
Thanks for everything you’ve done for PokerStars and growing the game of poker in 🇮🇳 India. Farewell, but not goodbye. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/NvqnEcxdnl
— PokerStars India (@PokerStarsIN) January 27, 2021
It’s time to turn the page and start the next chapter in my life. Thank you for an exhilarating experience,
It was a pleasure working with Team @PokerStars & @PokerStarsIN ❤️
All the best ⭐️ #newbeginnings
— Muskan Sethi (@muskaansethi) January 27, 2021
The PokerStars roster now consists of nine players. Andre Akkari is the most well-known pro around the world but focuses mainly on the Brazilian online poker market. Ramon Colillas won the inaugural PSPC in the Bahamas and has been focused on the Spanish market. Jennifer Shahade is unique in that she lives in America – in Pennsylvania, to be exact, where PartyPoker offers real-money play – and cross-promotes poker and chess in a unique way.
The other pros are streamers online: Lex Veldhuis, Ben Spragg, Fintan Hand, Felix Schneiders, and Arlie Shaban. And Mason Hughes represents the virtual reality movement at PokerStars VR.
Changes at PartyPoker
The biggest change in the past year at PartyPoker was the addition of actor, producer, and comedian Kevin Hart. While Covid prevented Hart from attending any live events – as there were none – after his signing, Hart has promoted the site and its “let’s make poker fun again” mantra.
Meanwhile, PartyPoker grew its Twitch Team in the last two years, with Jaime and Matt Staples and Jeff Gross leading a team of seven. Courtney Gee and Monika Zukowicz are a part of the well-rounded roster as well.
In January of this year, Anatoly Filatov left the PartyPoker team after having been with them since 2017. F5Poker reported that departure via Filatov’s Instagram, which recalled some of the highlights of his three years with PartyPoker.
“It was nice to work in a team and move towards common goals,” he wrote. “Thank you very much PartyPoker for this awesome, exciting time and teamwork!”
Less than a week later, Filatov posted his image as a GGPoker pro. He later clarified that he plays for GG Team Russia on GGPokerOK, another skin of GGPoker on the same network.
Meanwhile, Pokerfuse kept track of some other pros that exited recently, most notably Philipp Gruissem (who says he retired from poker) and Roberto Romanello. Ludovic Geilich joined PartyPoker in mid-2018 but already left. And Renato Nomura, Richard Dubini, and Josip Simunic also broke ties.
PartyPoker still maintains a solid team. Alongside Kevin Hart, the most well-known pros on its roster include Jason Koon, Sam Trickett, Isaac Haxton, Kristen Bicknell, Joao Simao, Patrick Leonard, Carl Froch, and Nikita Bodyakovskiy. There are also seven players on the Twitch Team and five sponsored pros, including Dzmitry Urbanovich and Benjamin Pollak.
888Poker Team Shrinks by One
The pros of 888poker seem to be a fairly tight-knit team. Kara Scott is the most well-known personality on the team, as she hosts podcasts, videos, interviews, etc., in addition to playing poker. Chris Moorman is one of the most accomplished players on the team alongside Dominik Nitsche, Ana Marquez, Vivian Saliba, and Sofia Lovgren.
Martin Jacobson, however, announced the end of his partnership with 888poker in mid-January. After three years, the 2014 WSOP Main Event champion posted a note on social media that the deal ended.
— Martin Jacobson (@Martin_Jacobson) January 21, 2021
Interestingly, 888poker wished him well publicly. This has not been the case with most poker operators that part ways with their sponsored pros. Very rarely does a site even acknowledge that a pro leaves its team, much less express well wishes. (PokerStars does it on occasion, as PokerStars India did with Sethi’s aforementioned departure.)
— 888poker (@888poker) January 22, 2021